It has been a busy autumn for countertenor Jay Carter. He has continued teaching and mentoring his undergraduate students at William Jewell College, as well as touring and performing a considerable amount. We caught up with Jay to ask him a few questions.
Bach Virtuosi Festival: Tell us about a few of your performances and tours this past fall, and about upcoming performances in the winter and spring?
Jay Carter: In addition to my teaching, I was pleased to have a full bingo card this December; I began with a set of Vivaldi performances with Nicholas McGegan and the Saint Louis Symphony Orchestra, before moving onto a tour with Weinachts Oratorium with Masaaki Suzuki and the Bach Collegium Japan. In December, I finished a series of Messiah Performances in San Diego with the Bach Collegium San Diego.
This spring, I will be performing St. John Passion at Baldwin Wallace’s annual Bach Festival and a B minor mass with Suzuki that will be presented at the meeting of the American Bach Society, among other things.
BVF: Can you share with us details about your recent performance with Sherezade Panthaki?
JC: I’m fortunate to frequently sing with Sherry – we were both cast in the Vivaldi concerts and the tour with Suzuki. Part of the thrill of working with Sherry is the knowledge that you have a colleague and duet partner who is equal parts virtuosic and thoughtful. I always breathe easy when I know that she is my soprano colleague on an engagement. It certainly makes me look even more forward to the upcoming summer work at the Bach Virtuosi Festival in Portland.
BVF: What is it about Bach that resonates most? Do you have a favorite piece to perform?
JC: Performing Bach’s music is something of an all-encompassing and complex endeavor. I think that this is partially due to his self-imposed notion of craftsmanship, which you want to highlight as a performer, without getting caught in the technical traps. He constructs his music with such precision that all the little cogs and gears contribute to a product that exhibits craftsmanship at every level of exploration – be it textual, harmonic, or contrapuntal. Often, he puts little gestures in places that most likely won’t be clear to anyone except for the performers – like hiding a chorale phrase in the cello part of a secco recitative. But even then the music still speaks to those who are listening and not actively creating the music.
Of course this intricacy couples with immense technical demands and makes Bach’s music somewhat dangerous, and at times stressful to sing. With most composers little imperfections pass by with scarcely any notice and everyone makes it out still in tact, but with Bach even the slightest smudge threatens to blow up the entire endeavor. I think it may be that dangerousness that calls each performer to be at their absolute best that makes Bach feel like an omnipresent teacher.
I have a warm place in my heart for the Little Fugue in G minor, BWV 578. It was the first piece of Bach that I remember hearing. Before I was a decade old my parents had purchased a record player for me, and gathered any LPs they could find that were collecting dust on the shelves of family members. One of these was a Bach album that featured E. Power Biggs playing the fugue. I was hooked on the piece instantly, and loved trying to hear how the material was overlapped and interwoven.
BVF: Are you looking forward to being back in Maine in June?
JC: Until last year, I hadn’t spent any time in Maine and was completely unprepared for what I encountered. I had read, certainly, and seen pictures – but was still overwhelmed by the experience. Making music in an environment where there is a mixture of beautiful architecture, immense natural beauty in the water and forests, and remarkable cuisine is a distinct honor. I can’t think of a better way to spend my summer.